|No. 5 Ducks get running game going, just in time for visit from No. 9 USC|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 21 October 2007 12:02|
Fifth-ranked Oregon walked out of Husky Stadium on Saturday night with a fourth consecutive win over rival Washington, backed by a record performance from Jonathan Stewart and the Ducks' running game.
And yet, Oregon (6-1, 3-1 Pac-10) was challenged into the fourth quarter, only pulling away from the pesky Huskies in the final minutes.
It was an optimum scenario for Bellotti, especially with the Ducks' upcoming schedule - No. 9 USC and No. 7 Arizona State both coming to Eugene in the next two weeks.
``This game was a vote of confidence for our team,'' Bellotti said. ``We were challenged and we responded.''
The Ducks' response came from a running game that Washington couldn't stop, let alone slow down. Oregon rushed for a school-record 465 yards, rolled up a school-record 39 first downs and finished with 661 total yards - just 6 yards shy of yet another school record.
Stewart was the benefactor, getting the bulk of the carries with backfield mate Jeremiah Johnson out for the season with a knee injury.
Stewart rushed for a career-high 251 yards on 32 carries, and two touchdowns, the second-highest rushing total in school history. It was the first 200-yard performance by an Oregon back since Onterrio Smith set the school record of 285 yards against Washington State in 2001.
But Stewart wasn't alone in tormenting Washington's beleaguered defense, which has given up 1,581 yards rushing in the last five games. Backup Andre Crenshaw added 113 yards on the ground, including 107 yards and two touchdowns in the second half.
Crenshaw's second touchdown run gave the Ducks a 38-31 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Quarterback Dennis Dixon got himself in the running mix as well, rushing for 99 yards and a TD of his own. He also threw for 196 yards and a touchdown, building on an already stellar senior season.
But like Stewart and Bellotti, Dixon passed on credit to the Oregon offensive line.
``I've got to give them all the game balls for sure,'' Dixon said.
Before Saturday, Oregon's potent spread offense had been built around a remarkable balance between the run and pass. The Ducks were averaging 266 yards rushing and 266.5 yards passing.
Those numbers are now skewed, thanks to Stewart.
Playing before family and friends from nearby Lacey, Wash., where he was a prep star before spurning Washington to become a Duck, Stewart could not be slowed. Whether banging off tacklers running inside, or sprinting away from defenders running on the edge, Stewart constantly shrugged off flailing Huskies defenders for big gains.
Stewart had 19 runs of at least 6 yards - 10 of those for at least 10 yards - and was stopped for negative yardage only twice.
``He's not a dude that's going to run you over like a Marshawn Lynch, but he's so big and physical and fast, that if you don't wrap your feet and bring your feet with him, he's just going to fall off the tackle,'' Washington's E.J. Savannah said. ``He's that big and fast.''
Oregon's speed on the perimeter was a concern of Washington's coaches all week. But even they were left impressed after seeing the Ducks in person.
And the next team trying to slow the Oregon offensive machine is USC, which has won the last three against the Ducks. Last year's 35-10 rout started Oregon on a four-game losing streak to end the season.
``I do a lot of studying with TV games and watching the Big 10 and Pac-10 and the SEC and I don't think there is a better offense in the country right now,'' Washington defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. ``I really don't.''